”Går jag till sängs med tolv Guds änglar…”: den judisk-kristna konsten att somna och avsomna i bild och bön

  • Sebastian Selvén Dalarnas museum and Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden


Title: “Can death be sleep…”: the Judæo-Christian Art of Dying and Sleeping Well in Picture and Prayer
In Swedish oral tradition, as well as in one example of Dalecarlian folk painting from the late 18th century, an invocation of twelve (occasionally fourteen) angels standing around the bed is evident from at least the 17th century. This invocation, while having taken on several different functions, has predominantly been used as a bedtime prayer but has also been sung during wakes in the home. It parallels numerous European angel prayers, the most famous of which is probably the German version Abends wenn ich schlafen geh, and can be traced to 14th-century ars moriendi practices.
The prayer bears a striking resemblance to the Jewish Ashkenazic bedtime invocation of the four angels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel, and the two prayers may either be the result of a genetic relationship through borrowing and appropriation or are the result of a shared Judæo-Christian oral prayer repertoire in mediaeval Europe.
While the Christian angelic invocation, apart from its (most probably later) use as a bedtime prayer, focuses on death, the Jewish angelic invocation focusses on Divine mystical presence. The conservative development of angelic pictorial representation in mediaeval prayer practices through the early modern period points to the roots of certain 18th and 19th century folk art motifs and themes, and a shared Jewish and Christian heritage behind them.

How to Cite
SELVÉN, Sebastian. ”Går jag till sängs med tolv Guds änglar…”: den judisk-kristna konsten att somna och avsomna i bild och bön. ICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildtolkning – Nordic Review of Iconography, [S.l.], n. 1, p. 7-40, may 2021. ISSN 2323-5586. Available at: <https://ojs.abo.fi/ojs/index.php/ico/article/view/1727>. Date accessed: 21 sep. 2023.